Sunday, November 14, 2010

More About Honesty

We were talking here of candor yesterday. Then, this morning I had the perfect real-life situation that illustrates how difficult this is.

About 20 years ago, as I was coming back from the mission field, burnt out, disillusioned with Christianity, I made a personal vow . . . I would never lie for Jesus again. I never knew how hard that vow would be to keep. I really do think that many people consider me a jerk. I think the number one reason I come across as a jerk are my attempts to be honest. I don't do it cruelly. I try my best to avoid those situations. But . . . they happen.

In the coffee shop this morning I was approached by a lady, whom I know well. Her husband, my wife and I, all sat on the board of directors of a local parachurch teen ministry. While I respect the full time workers of that group, and I do think they are doing good things, I became a bit disillusioned with them and eventually stepped down (after two years.) For one, they had an anti-intellectual approach with the kids. Their activities were going to tracker pulls, monster truck rallies and cage fights. The made fun of "book worms" and deep thinking. We still give them some money.

This organization has a major fund raiser once a year. It is a formal dinner. Each table has a "captain" who invites six other couples. Then, at the end of the dinner there is a long "shake down" for money. A lot of moving videos, testimonies and begging.

The first time I went to the dinner, six years ago, I was invited by my ex-pastor. He simply told us about a free dinner where we can catch up on the local youth ministries. We had no warning it was a shake down. I was a little red-faced, by the end (knowing that we had been set up). But eventually I agreed to go on the board . . . in my naivety . . . thinking I could have an influence in the direction the ministry was going. Turned out, the board was only involved in fund raising and nothing else.

So this is how the dialog went this morning. I will call my friend, "Megan."

Megan: Hi Mike. You know last year we had invited you to be table captains at youthministry's banquet and you were going to be out of town. Are you going to be in town this year, and if so, can you be table captains?

Mike: Hmm. We are probably going to be in town.

Megan: So you can do it?

Mike: Honestly, I could . . . but . . . I don't want to.

(Megan looks taken back)

Megan: Oh Really?

Mike: I know how hard it is for you to recruit captains, and having been on the board myself, I know it can get frustrating. However, we are already giving as much money as I want to. Also, I can't think of a single couple which it would be appropriate for us to invite. I mean, the couples I would invite would feel violated. The reason, some are good friends and they already give out the nose to groups and I really don't want to try and get them to give more.

All the other couples I could think of . . . well, it would be offensive if I invited them. I mean, they might come. But, I've hardly spoken to them for a year and for me to invite them to come to a shake down would hurt our relationship.

Meagan: We don't like inviting our friends either . . . but it is something we feel that we should do for the Lord.

Mike: I respect that, and like I said, I know it is hard for you, but I don't sense that calling from God that we should do this.

I could tell from her body language and further conversation that we had that she sensed me as a jerk. I had a wave of intense guilt come over me . . . a false guilt.

I just wish it didn't have to be so hard.


Recovering Alumni said...

You've got balls! Wish it wasn't so hard to be honest about things like that...

Anna A said...

I had something similar to the shake down dinner happen to me. I was supporting some acquaintances that had to raise their own money to be missionaries.

I was invited to their home for dinner (only guest) and afterwards, the man and I had a private conversation. Big Shake down. If there had been other people there it wouldn't have felt like such a set up.

I stopped my contributions that night. But, it wasn't until much later that I was able to be more honest with them.

jmj said...

Having been a "full time Christian worker" in my past, I know how frustrating and burdensome it is to raise support. However, I agree, there is no place for dishonesty. I actually think, now, that there are way too many "full time Christian workers" in the world. I've had friends raise support and go to the mission field only because they couldn't find a decent job (and had no marketable skills).